Teachers’ union votes for gay marriage, abortion

The National Education Association, the country’s major teachers’ union, had more than education on its mind at its annual convention:

The National Education Association has thrown its full support behind homosexual “marriage.”
The NEA recently held its annual convention in San Diego, California, where members voted on two issues of importance to those involved in the culture war. One of those issues was whether the union would support same-gender marriage. According to Jeralee Smith, co-founder of the Conservative Educators Caucus, the resolution passed by roughly a two-thirds majority.
“There are quite a few items where the NEA absolutely puts its political muscle behind taking down any legislation in any state that they consider to be discriminatory to homosexuals,” says Smith. “And some of the language in the resolution also hints that the NEA will try to take down the Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA] on the federal level.”
Smith told Baptist Press that when a representative of the Conservative Caucus spoke against the resolution and mentioned the words “marriage should be between a man and a woman,” the speaker was booed.
Also up for a vote was a resolution for the NEA to take a “no position” stance on the issue of abortion. That proposal was voted down 61 percent to 39 percent.

How about voting on improving math instruction? Or passing resolutions about homework?

And yet, the voice of the union must be emblematic of where our nation’s public school teachers stand on these political, moral, and cultural issues.

A Marxist takes on the new atheists

Terry Eagleton is a Marxist literary critic who lambastes the new atheists. He has written a book on the subject, Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate. Here is an interesting conversation with him in the atheist publication New Humanist, which begins with a sampling of Eagleton’s critiques:

Reading the first sentence of Terry Eagleton’s review of The God Delusion in the October 2006 edition of the London Review of Books was not unlike watching a gunfighter kicking over a table of cards in an otherwise well-ordered saloon. “Imagine,” fired Eagleton, “someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology.”

And that was only the opening volley. Further down the page Eagleton proceeds to shoot up Dawkins’s failure to do justice to the complexity of the God he sought to rout (“He seems to imagine God, if not exactly with a white beard, then at least as some kind of chap”), his literality and lack of imagination (“Dawkins occasionally writes as though ‘Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness’ is a mighty funny way to describe a Grecian urn”) and his belief in the progressive nature of history (“We have it from the mouth of Mr Public Science himself that aside from a few local, temporary hiccups like ecological disasters, famine, ethnic wars and nuclear wastelands, History is perpetually on the up”).

Praise songs as sacraments and as mantras

Several years ago, there was a fascinating discussion of the use of “praise songs” in worship at Mere Comments, the blog of Touchstone Magazine that I was just alerted to. Timothy Striplin, a young church musicians, had this to say:

Seizing on the idea that “He inhabits the praise of His people,” those who advocate this style of worship attempt to compensate for the loss of the catholic center of worship by emphasizing above all else an experience of the Real Presence of the Third Person of the Trinity (in each worshipper, individually, I might add) IN SUNG PRAISES.

The man or woman in the pew is supposed to “get into the mood” and let the songs “carry them away, into a personal experience of the Spirit.” The simple, repetitious words of the “worship chorus” take on the function of a mantra that can carry one into an altered state; charismatic writers have gone so far as to actually say that this is their aim, though I doubt many Evangelicals are aware of this aspect of the “Praise and Worship” tradition.

I have heard a worship leader invoke this concept–that “he inhabits the praise of his people”–as a way to get people “prepared” for worship, and I thought at the time he was using it in a Real-Presence kind of way. (The notion comes from Psalm 22:3, though only the KJV and its derivatives say “inhabits.” The others say that He is “enthroned on the praises of Israel,” which has a completely different meaning.

The “mantra” charge–the practice in Hindu and New Age meditation of repeating words over and over again to induce a sort of trance–is serious, and one that I had not thought of.

Mr. Striplin goes on to say that Christian worship requires some notion of God’s presence and he urges Christians to recover “some form” of sacramental presence in the Eucharist, if not Luther’s, at least Calvin’s.

I understand that traditions that don’t even have that must substitute something. But why would traditions that do have a sacramental understanding of Christ’s true presence go after this pale substitute? (As I recall, the worship leader that I heard go on about how God “inhabits” the praises of the people was a Lutheran.)

HT: Shane Ayers

Justice Ginsburg on Abortion & Eugenics

You have got to read Michael Gerson on what Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told the New York Times Magazine: “Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion.”

A statement like this should not be taken out of context. The context surrounding this passage is a simplistic, pro-choice rant. Abortion, in Ginsburg’s view, is an essential part of sexual equality, thus ending all ethical debate. “There will never be a woman of means without choice anymore. That just seems to be so obvious,” she explains. “So we have a policy that affects only poor women, and it can never be otherwise, and I don’t know why this hasn’t been said more often.” Of pro-lifers, she declares, “They’re fighting a losing battle” — which must come as discouraging news to litigants in future abortion cases that come before the high court.

Given this context, can it be argued that Ginsburg — referring to “populations that we don’t want to have too many of” — was merely summarizing the views of others and describing the attitudes of the country when Roe v. Wade was decided? It can be argued — but it is not bloody likely. Who, in Ginsburg’s statement, is the “we”? And who, in 1973, was arguing for the eugenic purposes of abortion?

It is more likely that Ginsburg is describing the attitude of some of her own social class — that abortion is economically important to a “woman of means” and useful in reducing the number of social undesirables. Neither judge nor journalist apparently found this attitude exceptional; there was no follow-up question.

At the very least, Ginsburg displays a disturbing insensitivity to Supreme Court history. It was Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. who wrote the 1927 decision approving forced sterilization for Carrie Buck — a 17-year-old single mother judged to be feebleminded and morally delinquent. “It is better for all the world,” ruled Holmes, “if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind.” Such elitism has been discredited; it is not extinct.

The entire Ginsburg interview is a reminder of the risks of lifetime appointments to the Supreme Court. Immune from criticism, surrounded by plump cushions of deference, the temperament of a justice can become exaggerated over time. For Ginsburg, complex arguments are now “so obvious” and “can never be otherwise” — and opposition is fated to failure. Such statements, made during Ginsburg’s own nomination hearing, would have been disqualifying.

The specific context for her remark–which elicited no follow-up question from the reporter–was whether Medicaid should fund abortions with taxpayer money for the poor. Justice Ginsburg was saying “yes,” so what she was saying is that abortion is a way to fight poverty by reducing the number of poor people. See this in the LA Times.

Christ of the Desolate Places

What a church service we had Sunday–two baptisms (a baby and an adult) on top of the regular absolution and Holy Communion and a really good sermon. It was onMark 6:30-44, the feeding of the five thousand. If you read it, you will be greatly blessed. Here is the opening:

Three times today we are told that Jesus and His disciples were in a desolate place. Three times. Mark wants to make sure we know that. And that Jesus is there on purpose. For after His apostles return from their work, Jesus willfully takes them there to take care of them and give them rest. To a desolate place. Not to some feast or party or comfortable place of ease, but to a desolate place – because desolate places are often where Jesus does His greatest work.

But they are not there long before the crowds show up. In fact, the crowds got there before them. And when Jesus gets out of the boat and sees them, He has compassion on them too. For they too are in a desolate place – but not because they ran there on foot. The desolate place for the crowds was their hearts. For, we are told, they were like sheep without a shepherd. They were not being fed or cared for, and so they were lost and lonely and spiritually hungry.

So in that desolate place, Jesus does a great work – He feeds them all. He feeds them all first spiritually with His Word, and then He feeds them all physically, using only five loaves of bread and two fish. And they are filled in body and in soul. They receive the care that only He can give. For Jesus has turned that desolate place into the green pasture of the Good Shepherd.

And so it is for you.

It goes on, touching on many other themes, building up to this:

in the midst of this world of change and desolate places, there is one thing that never changes, where truth is to be found. One thing from outside of us, come into our world, upon which we can base our hope and put our faith. And that is the cross of Jesus. The cross, which is the desolate place of all desolate places, which our Saviour has turned into the greenest pasture of all.

For the cross shows us truth of the desolation of our sin. It is the cursed tree with no branches, the place of separation, the altar of agony and death. It is what you deserve because of your sin. But the cross also shows us the truth of the love of God, for when you look at that cross, it is not you on it – but another. Another who has taken your place. Another who has taken your sin, your curse, your guilt, your punishment, your death, that it all be His and not yours. That He be the prisoner and you be set free. And that is possible and true, because the One hanging there is not just another, but God Himself. The Son of God come in love to give Himself for you.

And so the cross is where the lovelessness of sin and the sinlessness of love come together, and love wins. The love of God. [The next seven statements based upon the seven last words of Christ from the cross.] The love of God who is forsaken, so that you will never be. The love of God who thirsts, that you may drink His living water and never thirst again. The love of God who lays down His life for His Bride, the Church. The love of God who promises us Paradise through His blood. The love of God who says “Father, forgive them.” The love of God who gives His Spirit to you. The love of God who dies your death, that you may live His life. His life, for He is not dead, but risen! For death cannot reign where sin is atoned for and forgiven.

Our pastor then applied all of this to what just happened and was about to happen: the two baptisms, the absolution, Holy Communion. You’ve got to read it all. You will be glad you did.

Tom Watson, our hero

Tom Watson came in second at the British Open, after losing a four-hole playoff to Stewart Cink. But still, what a performance for a 59-year-old in a major sporting event! He beat a field of 154 young whippersnappers, the best golfers in the world, including Tiger Woods. We fifty-somethings can take great encouragement from Watson’s performance.